Gord Parsons: Carbonear's municipal enforcement officer gets things done

Melissa Jenkins melissa.jenkins@tc.tc
Published on August 13, 2014

Carbonear's municipal enforcement officer Gord Parsons has been actively ensuring permit compliance in recent months.

©Photo by Melissa Jenkins/The Compass

Gord Parsons is very relaxed, leaning back in a comfy chair at Carbonear's council office as he answers questions.

In fact, Parsons is frequently relaxed, and that's been beneficial in his position as the Town of Carbonear's municipal enforcement officer for the past three years.

During that time, Parsons has helped clean up illegal dumping, vandalism and theft by setting up security cameras - only he knows where those cameras are located.

He has attended several conferences for municipal enforcement, and even helped give a talk on the benefits of the security system to other towns and communities.

Parsons is also a driving force behind ensuring proper building and renovation permits are in place, something that has been on the rise in recent months.

But what many don't know about Parsons is why he has such a calm and relaxing personality.

In his line of work, some may think he should have a rougher and tougher façade, or perhaps an intimidating personality.

But Parsons is quite the opposite - reserved, quiet and composed.

Parsons' background

For almost 30 years, Parsons was a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) officer.

For two of those decades he was a bomb technician, trained to remain calm under pressure.

Parsons has been involved in several high-profile cases, some which are still active today.

One such case is when the O'Brien family went missing in November 1996. Three sons were said to have been taken by their father. They've never been found.

When police arrived at their home, it was rigged to blow up. Parsons was called in to disarm the explosives.

"I walked into the house that morning and dismantled it," Parsons explains. "It could have blown up."

When a bomb threat was made at the Aquarena in St. John's in 1999, Parsons was again on scene. This threat ended up being a hoax, but he was prepared.

"You're in a bomb suit that's 80 pounds," he says. "It was fake, but you don't know going into it."

During the Serbian civil unrest in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Parsons, along with several other Canadian officers, packed up and went to Kosovo.

He was stationed in Mitrovica north, one of the most dangerous areas. He stayed for nine months.

"I volunteered to go," he notes, adding he's now classified as a veteran.

Some of his other duties involved purchasing drugs in undercover sting operations and being "locked up" in jail to talk with other inmates for information.

His many years of tactical training, explosive training and field experience have demonstrated that rules and regulations are in place for a reason.

That's how he approaches his job as enforcement officer.

Enforcing policies

The residents of the town have likely seen a royal blue truck with the town's yellow and white logo on its doors frequently patrolling local streets in recent months.

That's what Parsons drives when he's working.

Often, he can be seen parked at construction sites or resident properties.

A permit is required to do any type of construction or renovation project in the town. Parsons is the one who enforces those rules.

When he begins his rounds at about 8 a.m. each day, his first stop is at the office to check voicemail messages and a list of approved permits.

He then uses the list to plan a route to each site to ensure permits are being adhered to.

He has discovered many residents without proper permits.

"If I see anything (that is not on my list), I'll stop to chat," Parsons says.

He has given residents the benefit of the doubt because many don't realize they need a permit.

"A lot of people are sincere," Parsons explains.

Deputy Mayor Frank Butt says Parsons is doing a wonderful job. He supports the officer's approach.

"Gord is being very cordial towards people," Butt explained. "It will take time for the residents to understand that how things were done years ago is different now."

But not everyone is open to Parsons' visits. He has been sworn at, threatened and even had people come after him with weapons.

"I've had people threaten me, and some even came after me with pipes and sticks for being on their property," he said.

But with his easygoing personality and police training, he never reacts with emotion.

"I don't get upset that easily," he said.

Permits up

Some councillors praised Parsons in the most recent council meeting last month for ensuring proper permits are in place.

There were 267 permits approved for Carbonear in the first half of this year, compared to 279 for all of 2013.

Parsons' enforcement has been given as one reason permit numbers are up.

He spends quite a bit of time checking out permits, and Butt believes its because it takes at least a few weeks to have an application approved.

Butt will present a proposal to the council this fall to discuss his ideas how to improve times.

He explains the process will help lighten Parsons' workload, giving him time to deal with more serious violators.

Parsons is frequently on the road, but explains if anyone would like to speak with him or report anything to him, they can call the town office at 596-3831 ext. 229, and leave him a message.